Having raised Mark to the point where he is now in high school and with Oliver in Grade 1, I have some experience in Christmas shopping for school aged boys. You can read my gift guide for teenagers here and my ideas for what to get a school aged boy below. If you have any other suggestions or ideas, let me know in the comments.
Includes Batman, Man-Bat and Night Wing (who used to be Robin). You child will be saving Gotham non-stop with this set.
All-new Fire HD 6 or Fire HD 7 tablet—with 1 year of Amazon FreeTime Unlimited, Kid-Proof Case, and a 2-year worry-free guarantee
- A real tablet, not a toy—A quad-core processor for great performance, a vivid HD display, front and rear-facing cameras, and Dolby Audio
- Built for even the toughest kids—Enjoy the peace of mind with an unprecedented 2-year worry-free guarantee—if they break it, return it and we’ll replace it for free. No questions asked
- Don’t worry about the bill—The Kids Edition includes a year of Amazon FreeTime Unlimited so kids get unlimited access to 5,000 books, movies, TV shows, educational apps, and games—at no additional cost. Learn more
- Starts in Amazon FreeTime—Built from the ground up for kids, the background color and fonts change to a kid-friendly design. Kids can navigate visually to content based on characters or topics. Parents can exit Amazon FreeTime mode with a passcode
- Best-in-class parental controls—Personalize screen time limits, set educational goals, and choose which titles kids can access from your own personal content collection
- Take and edit photos in Amazon FreeTime—Snap photos within Amazon FreeTime mode using front and rear cameras. Fun editing tools lets kids explore their creative side by adding stickers, drawing on their pictures, and more
- Kid-Proof Case—Durable, lightweight case to protect against drops and bumps caused by kids at play.
We gave Oliver Wendy’s old Kobo Vox tablet last year. We tossed on some educational games, some apps, and he loves it. We did the same with an old 2nd Gen iPod Touch that we loaded up with music. He is careful and responsible with it. With the Amazon Fire HD case and apps, it makes introducing your child to a computer even easier.
This time it is Spiderman saving The Daily Bugle and J. Jonah Jamieson from certain doom. The only question I have is, will Peter Parker get a picture of Spiderman.
Nerf guns are all over our house. There is nothing quite like wandering down into my basement and being ambushed by both my kids. If you want to add to their arsenal of fun Nerf weapons that are good inside and out, consider the Nerf Mega ThunderBow Blaster. Five bullets and lots of fun.
If you want to survive those ambushes, you may want to pick up one of these for yourself.
There are a great gift. Indoor hockey played on your knees has been a Canadian tradition for decades. So has mothers complaining about having to patch the knees of pants. Of course with them being sized or indoor use, they are perfect for when it is too cold to play outside.
The old classic is still around. It includes 86 all wood pieces.
If you don’t have your own Batcave, this is the second best thing.
How cool is this. An R2-D2 that projects the time onto the walls. “Help me Obi-Wan, you are our only hope of waking up on time…”
A great option for the kid who struggles to wake up is the Lego Star Wars Storm Trooper alarm clock. Plus nothing helps you sleep well than knowing you are beside an elite trooper who lost a key battle to a bunch of Ewoks.
- $24 from Amazon. If your child is superhero fan more than Star Wars, there are Batman and Superman Lego alarm clocks for $30
We passed down an iPod Shuffle to Oliver a couple of years ago. It is small and easy for him to use. Even the 2gb version is enough to load him up with music for the longest of roadtrips. Combine it with these kid-friendly Batman Headphones and you have a gift that they will love as much as you love the silence.
Kid Safe headphones have a volume limiter meaning that your child will not be at risk of hearing damage. Over the ear design also means that they won’t get headaches either. It’s a great add on to the Kindle Fire for Kids or the iPod Shuffle.
Sometimes kids want to listen to their music out loud! For those times, a portable, small, and rechargeable speaker that provides great sound is the way to go. It provides great sound but won’t overpower your house. The also have a modular “Buddy-Plug” Design: Integrated stowaway 3.5mm stereo audio jack plug and socket connects multiple XBOOM Mini Portable Capsule speakers together for maximum sound. So if one isn’t getting the job done, you can keep adding speakers. They are compatible with any device that has a headphone jack, so phones, iPods, or any MP3 player.
Despite the game being for players 10 and older, Oliver has been loving the game for a couple of years. Instead of getting your child a game that only they will like for a year or two, why not start them playing some games the entire family can play for a lifetime?
Remember your first H0 model train set? How about a set that is modelled after Colorado’s oldest scenic line? It combines rich history, spectacular views and stylish accommodations into a train that takes you on a 24-mile journey through the 1,000 Feet deep Royal Gorge. Passengers travel alongside the Arkansas River on a ribbon of rail for an up-close nature show deep in the canyon, observing bald eagles, blue heron, bighorn sheep, mule deer, and flora native to the gorge.
How much fun would any kid have opening this set on Christmas morning?
The Hohner HAG250P is a handcrafted classical guitar with an Agathis top back and sides. This wood match-up creates a crisp texture to the overall sound of the instrument. The smaller scale of this instrument (considered 1/2 sized) is specially designed with the younger player in mind and is highly recommended for the players that are starting between the ages of 5-9. This instrument also comes equipped with light gauge nylon strings for easier fingering as to not discourage the first time player.
Spy Gear for His Latest Adventure
Utility Belt with Micro Spy Tools like a Micro Ear Light, Micro Listener, Micro Motion Alarm and Invisible Ink Pen on every surveillance mission
The coolest utility belt that doesn’t belong to Batman.
Because every great adventure needs a team and a two mile radius is very, very impressive.
Flickr said this was my 50th most interesting photo of 2014. It is of Mark just after I gave him my old Pentax K-X camera for his 14th birthday. I’ll be counting down to my most interesting photo of 2014 every day from now until the end of the year.
What do you get for the teenaged boy on your Christmas list. The easy way out is cash and gift cards. We aren’t going to take the easy route out. We are doing this the hard way and come up with a list that any teenager would love.
$150 for a cutting edge tablet? I’m okay with that. The Asus MeMo tablet runs a 1.33 GHz Quad-Core Intel Atom processor, Android 4.4 KitKat, more than enough RAM to run the latest applications and 16 gb of storage for videos, music, and homework. It also has a .3 megapixel front facing camera and a 2 megapixel rear facing camera
We gave Mark my old Pentax K-x to him for his birthday and he loves it. The advantage of Pentax over other DSLR’s is build quality. The K-50 has over 80 water seals in it. This means that the teen you are shopping for can take it far more places and adventures than other DSLRs. The other advantage is the amazing price. At under $500 (with a 18-55mm lens) it is one of the least expensive DSLR’s out there right now.
The PENTAX K-50 is a mid-level DSLR with fast, advanced functionality, all wrapped up in bold colors. Featuring specifications of a top level DSLR, enjoy a 16 megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor, fast continuous shooting at six frames per second, high sensitivity shooting up to ISO 51200, 100% field of view, innovative in-body shake reduction, and an advanced auto focus module with four optional focusing screens, not to mention the PENTAX-original weather-sealing. Also enjoy full 1018p HD video capture, and eye-fi card compatibility for fast and easy image sharing.
At the end of the day, you aren’t buying your teen a DSLR for them, you are buying it for the family time you will spend together shooting it. This summer Mark, Oliver, Wendy, and I went for countless walks, hikes, and adventures together for no other reason than to shoot from photos and see what we could see…. together.
If you are wondering about available lens for Pentax, check out my guide to Pentax DSLR lens that I wrote this summer.
- You can purchase a Pentax K-50 DSLR at Amazon for $486 which is an amazing price for a DSLR.
There is a good choice that your teen has an iPod or phone that plays music already. The music is great but one overlooked thing is what do you play it on. Sennheisser headphones are a great bet. The Sennheiser HD201 Stereo Headphones prove to be a low priced alternative to high-end studio headphones.With great clarity, the Sennheiser HD201 headphones are the ideal entry into the world of powerful stereo sound. These excellent headphones also boast great attenuation of ambient noise and outstanding comfort at an affordable price.
- $25 at Amazon. $50-75 everywhere else.
Tursion is making tablets affordable for use by anyone, not just artists. This high-quality Tursion drawing tablet is priced just right, so everyone can enjoy the benefits of a graphic tablet. It includes several software utilities, such as PenSigner and PenMail, which allows you to use handwritten signatures, adding a personal touch to what is usually thought of as an impersonal medium. Easy to install and to use,
We gave one to Mark last year for his birthday and he has loved it. It works with almost any kind of Windows XP/Vista/7/8 software has allowed him expand is skills and talents as an artist.
Royal & Langnickel Sketching and Drawing Easel Set is a comprehensive 104 piece collection of artist materials ideal for the beginner, student, or artist. This set features a wide assortment of pencils, pastels, and paints fitted into a convertible, two-drawer chest that opens to reveal a third tray of product. The storage chest converts into a sturdy table-top easel. An outstanding collection of tools for your studio or an ideal gift for an artist or serious art student.
There is always going to be a debate between Windows Netbooks and Google Chromebooks. The Acer Aspire makes a compelling argument for the Windows Netbook. Check out these specs.
- 11.6" HD Widescreen ComfyView™ LED-backlit Display: (1366 x 768) resolution; 16:9 aspect ratio
- Intel® Celeron® N2840 Dual-Core Processor 2.16GHz with Intel® Burst Technology up to 2.58GHz
- Windows 8.1 with Bing
- Intel® HD Graphics
- 2048MB DDR3L SDRAM Memory
- 32GB internal storage
- Digital Media Card Reader – Secure Digital™ (SD) Card
- 802.11b/g/n Wireless LAN
- Bluetooth® 4.0
- Acer Crystal Eye HD Webcam
- High Definition Audio Support
- Two Built-in stereo speakers
- 1- USB 2.0 Port
- 1- USB 3.0 Port
- 1- HDMI™ Port with HDCP Support
- 3-cell Lithium-Ion Battery (2640mAh)
- Up to 5-hours battery life
- 2.84 lbs.
Another cool part of these Aspire E-11’s is that they don’t have fans so they are completely silent.
You aren’t just giving a gift when you give a telescope as a gift. You are opening up the wonders of the universe. All of Celestron’s PowerSeekers include a full range of eyepieces plus a 3x Barlow lens that provides an increase in viewing power hundreds of times greater than that of the unaided eye!
- The Celestron PowerSeeker is Amazon’s best selling telescope an is only $99.99. With it you will be able to explore more of the Milky Way than you ever thought possible.
You can also find all of the rest of the 2014 Christmas Gift Guides online here. There is a lot of great ideas for all of the important people in your life. Good luck with your shopping and have a great holiday season! Oh yeah, if I missed anything or you have any thoughts, let me know in the comments.
So I was looking for some information on Keeler, Saskatchewan, where my family is from and I came across this family history of my family. My grandfather and I weren’t that close after my dad left in 1982 but I couldn’t help but notice he spelled my name wrong in the family history. And if this is accurate, my father is now 62 years old. I had no idea.
In case you are interested, this is his old house (and post office), this is the bar I hung out in when I was six and this is his old garage. Also when I was six, I may or may not have held up the general store.
I had my trusty dog Tip, a pop gun, a cowboy hat and what I thought was a reasonable demand that she gave me some ice cream. I would have gotten all of the ice cream if I hadn’t fired my toy gun (she thought it was real). When nothing appeared to have been shot, she told my grandmother. Crime never pays kids. Crime never pays.
Interesting trivia note is that I have the till from that General Store in my house today. It weighs a ton and everywhere you can grab it has very sharp edges. I also think that the book is incorrect as I have memories of Mrs. Garry running the store when I was older than three.
Of course as I am reading, it just clicked in that these must be my great grandparents.
Totally unrelated note: A well known lawyer in town has told me that he think the reason that he is in Canada is because his great great grandfather possibly killed one of my ancestors in a drunken fight back in the U.K. Even weirder is that we have known each other for years before and he found this out while researching his own family’s genealogy. Its stuff like that gets left out of small town history books.
I guess I am glad that we don’t come from an honour based society where I would have to kill one of his family and so on and so on. If I remember correctly, he did buy dinner the night that he told us this so we could be even.
Christmas & Holiday Gift Guide for your Wife, Girlfriend & other Important Women in Your Life | 2014 Edition
Each year I put together some holiday and Christmas gift guides for the people in your life. Wendy wrote the first one and here is my first one; a holiday and Christmas guide for the women in your life.
Wendy is hard to shop for. She never makes a list until it’s too late and doesn’t really crave a whole bunch of things which makes Christmas (and birthday) shopping hard. In case your wife is awesome like Wendy but hard to shop for, here are some Christmas gift ideas to consider.
Let me know what you think in the comments below.
The alluring Original Star K Heart Shape 8mm Love Pendant, crafted in 925 Sterling Silver. This beautiful design is set with 1 Heart Shape stone prong set , 1 stone prong set colorless Round Cubic Zirconia. This product measures 8 mm wide, 18 mm long and is a great looking while affordable necklace and pendant.
Why would you get her a iPod Nano when she probably has a smart phone. Two reasons. Smartphones tend to fill up with apps and if you have a 8gb or even a 16gb iPhone, she may not have enough room to have much music on it. The second reason is that she may have an Android or a Blackberry meaning that managing your music with iTunes is a pain in the neck.
An iPod Nano gives her 16gb of storage in an extremely compact package. It may not do everything that her phone or an iPod Touch does but it plays her music really well at an affordable price.
Wendy has always loved music and has always wanted a massive stereo system. Since we have a small home, the dream has never come true. Lucky for Wendy there are some excellent compact speaker systems as options. Here are a few of them.
I have traditionally recommended the Bose Wave home audio system. It provides legendary sound, is $499 but has fallen behind the times. It bugs me that even with the new version you have to add an optional and costly Bluetooth receiver to stream music wirelessly from your iPod. Yet if the women you are shopping for still prefers CDs to iTunes, it is probably the best audio system you can get for her.
For the iPod/Android crowd, I am suggesting you get her a Big Jambox.
The Big Jambox turns any mobile device (phone, tablet, media player, computer) into a portable, hi-fi sound system that wirelessly delivers amazingly clear, full audio at any volume.
- They are available from Amazon and are $277. If cost or size are a factor, check out the Jambox Mini for $99.
Help keep her warm this winter with a faux fur blanket. Perfect for outdoor, watching TV. Stay warm this winter and feel great with this faux fur throw. Unbelievably soft and plush. Dynamic decor piece to throw over a couch or chair, it serves as a fashionable, functional accent piece. Perfect blanket to cuddle up on a chilly evening without any of the guilt and cost of using real mink fur.
I bought Wendy an Olympus PEN last year and she loved it. Over the year we added a couple of lens (I recommend the Olympus 40-150mm, the Olympus 45mm f1.8 (Wendy’s favourite lens), the Sigma 19mm, 30mm and 60mm prime lens) a new ThinkTank sling bag, and some other gear. The result was we took a couple of thousand photos over 2014 and had a great time together.
The advantage of a mirrorless camera system like Micro 4/3 system (which is used by Olympus and Panosonic) is the size of the cameras and the lenses. It means in practical terms that you take this camera places you would not take a DSLR. With 16 megapixel sensors, good (but not amazing) low light sensitivity (if you want great, you need a Sony A7s), you get amazing photos that you can enlarge to almost any size.
If you want something small but with a traditional DSLR form factor, take a look at the Olympus OMD E-M10 for $750.
If she is looking for more traditional DSLR, then look at the Canon Rebel T5i with the 18-135 lens. She will be impressed at how simple it is to create breathtaking photos with ease. The incredible image quality and performance starts with an 18.0 Megapixel sensor and Canon’s DIGIC 5 Image Processor. A continuous shooting speed of up to 5.0 fps allows for fast action capture. 9 cross-type AF focus points help ensure crisp focus throughout the frame, and the Hybrid CMOS AF system enables speedy and accurate autofocus when shooting in Live View mode. In addition, the camera is compatible with Canon STM lenses for smooth, quiet AF performance.
You get full HD video, the ability to plug in a shotgun or lavaliere microphone, and access to the enormous Canon EF-S lens family. You can get a kit with a 18-55mm lens but for the extra $200, the extra range of the 18-135mm lensis worth it.
The ultimate garden book – both a collection of gardens from around the world and a resource for those seeking inspiration on garden design and planting. Featuring over 250 permanent gardens by leading garden designers, horticulturalists and landscape architects, from the 14th century to the present day, and covering all key types and styles of garden, this well‐illustrated compendium combines images, text, key information and captions for each of the featured gardens, appealing to both amateur and professional gardeners, as well as garden designers.
Samsung’s Chromebook laptop has been deemed by many to be a success. Lightweight, inexpensive and practical as everything operates off your Google Drive, the Chromebook is great for any career woman on the move.
Chromebooks are great if you are comfortable with using Google Apps but if she is the type that wants to do more with a computer, check out the Acer Aspire E-11 Netbook.
It runs Windows 8.1, has 2gb of RAM, and is totally silent as it is cooled passively. No fans means no noise. It’s only $200, runs iTunes, some games, Microsoft Office (or Open Office). An amazing netbook for the money.
Jean Dubost Laguiole 3-Piece Cheese Knife Set is a great holiday gift for anyone who loves hosting a great dinner party and doing so in style.
This set of cheese service knives includes a spreader for soft cheeses like Montrachet a serving knife for Gruyere and Gouda and a cleaver for hard cheeses such as Parmigiano. Sparkling stainless steel handles carry the signature logo of the Laguiole ‘Bee’. A wooden gift and storage box completes this gourmet set.
Wendy has sensitive skin and watches irritate her horribly. So when I gave Wendy this Timex Ironman watch, she had some serious doubts over whether or not she could wear it. A year later, she is still wearing it every day. Because the watch and band are all one piece, it is an incredibly comfortable watch to wear. Because it is from Timex, it takes a lickin’ and keeps on tickin’.
It is only $27 at Amazon and if you ask Wendy, she will tell you it is worth five times that amount.
Here is what you want to know: Yes, the Kindle Voyage is better than the Kindle Paperwhite. It’s thinner, faster, brighter, lighter, newer, has a better screen, has more memory (4GB vs last year’s Paperwhite’s 2GB) commands more magical elf armies, owns a Ferrari, and is nicer to your grandmother.
The iRobot Roomba 880 is the ultimate high performance robotic vacuum cleaner. Featuring the revolutionary new AeroForce Performance Cleaning System and AeroForce Extractors, it’s proven to remove up to 50% more dirt, dust, hair, debris and harmful allergens from all floor types and is virtually maintenance free.
Of course the best part of this gift is that it saves you and her time, time that you can spend together.
So there you go. I assume I have forgotten, many, many ideas so let me know what I have forgotten the comments below. You can check out the other Christmas and holiday gift guides while you are at it.
Wendy and I were married 17 years ago yesterday. Next year our relationships will reach adulthood.
As anniversaries go it was really boring. I have only had food poisoning a couple of times in my life and both times it has happened on our anniversary so in this case, non-eventful is good.
This morning we got up and got Mark to Bedford Road so he could get ready to play in the Charity Bowl. Then it was off to Gordie Howe Bowl to watch him play.
Mark has started all of his games at linebacker this season. Five minutes before the game he was told he would be playing starting defensive half back and then as he went out he was told to play cornerback. If you have played football, being told to go out and play a position which you have never even practiced for a second is a recipe for disaster but he performed well and had no passes completed against him and had a couple of tackle. Bedford won in a blowout so it all worked out well.
This year he has played linebacker, cornerback and defensive line. Again, the body types required to play defensive line and cornerback are generally exclusive to each position but he held his ground and did well so we are proud of him. Most importantly, Bedford Road just had their parent-teacher interviews and he is doing well academically. So far that make Grade 9 a success.
Of course the Charity Bowl is a great Saskatoon tradition and all of the money that was raised today goes to Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Saskatoon.
To keep with the football theme today, I gave Wendy a new Saskatchewan Roughrider jersey and got her a new Starbucks mug and some Pineapple tea. I was nervous about giving her a big thing of pineapple tea since she hates ham and pineapple pizza but as long as she doesn’t pour it on her pizza, she should be okay. She turned around and got me a Bluetune Bluetooth player which was great.
After meeting Janice Braden for coffee, we had a noisy supper at Alexander’s. Not sure what was going on but we were the only couple not in suits and without speakers in our ears. We had planned on going to The Oddcouple but neither of us felt that hungry after a big lunch.
Of course it was about then that my phone started to go off because council had decided to end the transit lockout. So if I got this right, Saskatoon City Council took 28 days and a failed labour board ruling to get right back to where were a month ago politically after affecting the lives of thousands with no gain. People lost their jobs, couldn’t get to appointments, businesses were hurt, and families disrupted for absolutely nothing.
Then I was able to watch councillors go on Twitter and say, “We made the right choice”. Feel free to help me out with this but I can’t find a historical comparison to an elected body that his this clueless. I want to talk about the Devine governments with Fair Share Saskatchewan and privatizing SaskEnergy but they had an opposition. Saskatoon City Council did this all by themselves to themselves. That almost seems like incompetence without precedent.
Winnipeg’s City Council often rivals ours for incompetence but I think Saskatoon has won this contest. It’s so weird because at least 8 of the 11 of them do their work, show up at meetings, and read their books. They can ask intelligent questions and for the most part show capable political instincts. Yet something goes wrong when they go behind closed doors.
Of course there are all sorts of interesting questions to be asked. Mainly what is the administrations role in this and who is running the show at City Hall. Is it the administration or the council. I have heard several comments from admin and staff who seem to suggest that administration thinks it is running the show in the city and that council is just there to give some advice. In fact, even the Mayor’s recent comments make me think he thinks that. So if that is case, this could have happened in a vacuum of a lack of leadership from city council. Either way, a lot of lives were affected for nothing. Absolutely nothing.
Wendy has a great post of photos that she took at Nuit Blanche. They are some of her best shots in a fairly challenging low light setting.
It’s been a long summer but one of the highlights was spending some time with the 2014 Ford Escape. I reviewed in 2013 and the SUV is essentially the same. Instead of just driving it around Saskatoon (done that before), I decided to take it on the road. This is after all where a crossover is supposed to come in useful isn’t it (that and as a hockey kid taxi). So the four of us got up really early one Sunday and took a long one day drive from Saskatoon to Drumheller and back. It’s around 1000km in a day if you are keeping track. At the end of the trip we were going to either love or hate the 2014 Ford Escape.
We packed relatively light. Even though it was a brand new vehicle we tossed our emergency kit in the back, three camera bags, a cooler, and some extra jackets in case the weather forecast was horribly wrong. That took up about 5% of the rear cargo space.
We got into Drumheller at about noon where the Ford Escape met this guy. I know I signed something that stopped people from smoking in the Ford Escape, I couldn’t remember if I was covered by stampeding dinosaurs. So I sent Mark and Oliver up to deal with the T-Rex.
After an epic struggle, they subdued the beat and saved the Escape.
I have driven from Saskatoon to Calgary many times and each time (generally at Hanna), I would get out and feel the pain in my back after four long hours of driving. This time it was completely different and here is why With the Escape, there was none of that. The air conditioner kept the kids cool while the heated seats kept Wendy and I feeling a lot more comfortable. If only they had a back massage feature.
After lunch we checked the GPS for directions to the Atlas Coal Mine. It couldn’t find it. It found every other little attraction in Drumheller but missed this one. Obviously Ford downloads these attractions from a database but I was surprised a National Historic Site was not on it. Ironically enough Siri with it’s much despised Apple Maps found us a way and we arrived after our failed conversation with Ford Sync. Apple 1 – Ford Sync 0.
Once at the Atlas Coal Mine, I discovered the true value of the Ford Escape. We explored an abandoned wooden bridge (which was home to rattlesnakes) and was almost completely rotten.
Explored the mine site
Wendy stumbled onto a model shoot
We took a mine tour
Climbed the “walk from hell” (this is important)
Where I tore my right quad and put myself in incredible pain (not all Ford reviews have happy endings). After heading back down the “walk from hell” (it’s what the miners called it), I limped back to the waiting Ford Escape while the family kept exploring (thanks guys!)
The pain was incredible, my leg was almost useless and I limped back to the vehicle in incredible pain. I got in and actually had to lift my leg inside, turned on the Escape, turned on the a/c and turned on the heated seat. It didn’t take away the pain but facing a five hour trip back to Saskatoon and realizing how much better it made my leg feel, it was amazing. (and made me add a tensor bandage and A535 to my emergency kit) when I got back into Drumheller.
I felt good enough to limp out and explore the Star Mine Suspension Bridge in Rosedale. While I never recommend walking on a moving suspension bridge with a torn quad, the heat kept it from getting really bad.
18 hours after, one rattlesnake sighting, two provinces, one radar dome, one torn quad, 1000 kms, three McDonald’s and one A&W run later, we rolled back into Saskatoon. Instead of whining and complaining despite being well past their bedtimes, the boys hopped out the car and Oliver said that was fun. He then hugged the Ford Escape goodnight. Yeah you read that right, after an 18 hour day, my six year old hugged the Escape.
It was then I realized why you want a 2014 Ford Escape. It is a lot of fun to drive in the city and the highway. It’s safe and like I wrote about the 2013 Ford Escape, it saved my families life when a guy lost control on icy roads. It looks great. Sirius XM radio is a lot of fun.
All of that is amazing but you buy one because the Escape facilitates fun times together with others. Whether that is an epic road trip with family or a weekend getaway with friends, it made a great trip better. It made a long day seem shorter. It made an improbable one day trip possible. It is small enough to be fun to drive but large enough that you can bring people along. It is everything a SUV should be. Since the first time I drove the Ford Escape, I fell in love with it and said that it was my favourite vehicle to drive. Since then it has become my families favourite vehicle as well. It facilitates fun.
You can read all about the technical specs here but in the end, they add up to one thing; great times spent together.
- I have been reviewing Ford cars for three years. Oliver is now six and since her first saw the Ford Sync GPS display, he has been fascinated. He sits in the back seat on a painful angle the entire time so he can see the display. That hasn’t changed. I hope to review a Ford car in 2015 just to see how long this continues. It’s weird. Of course the one advantage of Ford Sync GPS screens is not navigation but the fact that you never hear, “Are we there yet?”
- The bad thing about turn by turn instructions is that if you deviate off your course to take the scenic route (which I did), everyone panics and start back seat driving. Wendy is chirping at me, the boys are chirping at me. Sync is telling to “turn right, turn right, turn right”. I’m like, I just want see some scenery! EVERYONE CALM DOWN and Sync is still going, “turn right, turn right, turn right”. Why does no one trust me?!
- The Escape is fast. Shockingly fast for a SUV. Very comfortable to drive on a two lane highway. When I wanted to pass, I could.
- The Sync still crashes. Every Ford vehicle I have reviewed has had something go wrong with the Sync. The last time it wasn’t that bad but it asked me to go to a dealer. Turning the Escape off and on rebooted it (it is from Microsoft after all). Instead of asking me to go to a dealer, it should just say, restart your car. It’s not a big thing but I can’t believe it still does this. Then again, Microsoft. I should be used to it by now.
- Speaking of taking the scenic route, you will take more of them. The handling of the Escape is great and it kind of calls out for winding roads and rolling hills. A lot of fun.
- Even though the body design is older, it still turns heads. As I was limping towards the Star Mine Suspension Bridge someone turned and said, “that is a nice looking SUV”.
Mark starts high school tomorrow. He will wander out of here around 8:30 a.m. and is headed towards Bedford Road Collegiate where he will spend the next three and a half years of his life. He is talking about joining the Royal Canadian Navy after that so he can see the world before deciding on a career. We will see if the RCN has any floating ships left before he decides on his next step.
It was a hard decision for him to go to Bedford Road. He had wanted to go to E.D. Feehan High School but the lack of a football team doomed that decision. The lack of many sports made it exciting for him to go. He looked at Mount Royal and Marion M. Graham Collegiate and Bishop James Mahoney as well but the time on the bus was going to be significant. No one wants that long of commute just to go to high school.
The response from teachers and educators over him going to Bedford Road was tepid at best and downright hostile and discouraging at worse. Neighbors and friends had reservations. A friend of the families kid was robbed and then hit hard with a chain. Another kid was robbed at knife point. Saskatoon Public School Board teachers called the kids “rough”, “unteachable”, and talked of physical intimidation in the classroom. Two teachers told me they would resign rather than be appointed to Bedford. I don’t know if that was just talk but there are some polarizing feelings about the school. Considering it wasn’t a decision I was fond of in the first place (bad things always happened to me when I was in Bedford Road when I was a student) we really spent some time looking at our options and deciding what was best for Mark.
In defence of Bedford I was told of crime and thugs everywhere in the city. That may be true but according to Saskatoon Police Service crime maps, there is a propensity of violent and serious property crime in 2014 (and continuing throughout the spring) in Caswell Hill (and Mayfair). Assaults, robberies, drug related offences. It is all there and in a higher concentration then in other surrounding neighbourhoods in the city. Crime happens in the neighbourhood and the neighbourhoods where it’s students come from.
At the end of the day, crime is bad in our neighbourhood which has not been fun for the boys (it was last summer they were accosted by a high prostitute at 2:30 p.m. on a Tuesday) and of course 2013 was the summer of gunshots and prostitutes working our street (which has stopped thankfully).
So yeah there is a basis for teachers to be concerned, I am not sure why all of the negativity that goes around Bedford (well I do actually, I have disliked the school since my friends stereo was stolen and then the guy tried to resell it back to us which there for a basketball game) and from westside teachers in general about being in inner city schools. I have heard the complaints about the lack of fundraising from parents (I was foolish enough to think that taxes paid for my kids education) to school fees not being paid on time (We know of one kid that was picking bottles to pay for his school fees this year), to a lack of school supplies. I am not sure it’s right to hate the kids for the environment that they come from.
I can’t speak to the physical intimidation part. I am 6’4. I am not physically intimidated by much anymore yet Wendy who is a foot shorter doesn’t feel a lot of fear in her workplace and it can and often is violent (shoplifters, drunks, drugs, mental health). Maybe there is a desensitization that happens that I am missing and that some don’t have. Maybe they shouldn’t be teaching on the westside and perhaps it is a flaw of the system that allows teachers to teach kids they don’t like or fear.
I also think the city does it weird with allowing Mark to go to any school he wants. It creates a system where his friends who want to ride the bus or have parents that wish to drive them daily, can go to any high school in the city and creates a weird feeling for those that “have” to go to their neighbourhood schools. In the case of E.D. Feehan, you have a school in a slow death spiral because why would you want to go to a school that has no amenities when you can go the new and cutting edge Bethlehem High School.
Finally, I think the school board has a morale problem when you have teachers speaking so poorly about Bedford Road and about the westside to parents and students. Those teachers are speaking about not just a school but their own colleagues and are prejudging students before the summer is over and the school year has begun.
Oddly enough the extremely poor teachers Mark has had previously makes it easier to disregard the advice about Bedford (he has had more good teachers than bad but he bad one was so bad I don’t think he would have survived a second year). Despite the degree, some people aren’t wired to teach some kids. Hopefully he finds teachers that are wired to teach, coach, and mentor and they out number the ones that don’t want to be there.
Mark will do fine but the process leading up tomorrow left me with a bit of a sick feeling in my stomach.
I gave Mark an Sony Xperia J last Christmas which he loved. He thought it was the greatest phone ever, even if it wasn’t. The Sony Xperia J has a memory problem that means that it doesn’t handle apps well. I am not sure why this version of Android on this phone acts so poorly but according to the tech forums, it does.
The phone broke this summer and all of a sudden Mark’s attitude changed for the better. So much that we had some very long talks about it. He told me he missed being able to talk to his friends and Wendy and I via text but he didn’t really miss his phone very much. He was kind of glad that he didn’t have it around. He was funnier, more laid back, and said he was sleeping better.
It wasn’t the phone that was the problem, it was that he would find some time and play some games that would keep him on it for hours. He was like a lot of youth, addicted to their phone.
So we talked about the kind of phone that we would get. I decided on getting him a Blackberry Curve. It would let him text others and not be distracted by other stuff. Virgin Mobile’s was $150 which I found a little steep. Telus had one for $100 so I decided to make the switch. He isn’t under contract so I set off to Best Buy and get his phone. While I was there, I saw they had a Nokia Lumia 520 for Windows Phone for $110. I was torn over what phone to get but in the end it was the constant barrage of Windows Phone tweets by Darren Sproat that won me over. I haven’t heard of anyone excited over a Blackberry since 2005.
I set it up with Telus who has far inferior pre-paid plans than Virgin Mobile and gave it to Mark. The next day the phone wasn’t working. I called back and Telus said that they hadn’t gotten paid. I had a receipt and a confirmation number from Mastercard and still that wasn’t enough. It was kind of weird.
So I took Mark’s phone to Tech Box. I had never been in there and they unlocked the phone for $20. It took a couple of days more than they said (the first code was slow coming and then didn’t work) but they told me that one of them would be in the office on a Sunday and to stop by. We did, they unlocked the doors, and the phone was working. He was thrilled.
So I set up Mark’s phone for him and I have really come to like it. It doesn’t have all of the apps that the iPhone or Android does but I was able to get him…
- The Score
- A podcast app
- Weather app
He told me today that he misses having a StarPhoenix app but other than that, he is set. Internet Explorer isn’t that bad on the phone either. I didn’t install any games and he is fine with that. The phone is pretty snappy and the tiles feature of Windows 8 is designed for a phone (and not a computer screen). It works really well. I have told a couple of people that while I love my iPhone, I could switch to Windows Phone and be perfectly happy. Especially when I think that I spent $110 for the phone.
There are some other cool stuff installed for apps like a transit app (that doesn’t work in Saskatoon because we don’t make our route information available like most other cities). Bing Maps is no better or worse than Apple Maps (actually it is probably better).
So back to Mark. He’s happy with the phone. He likes not having a phone with the distractions of games and then frustrated over not getting other things done. He’s like a lot of 14 year olds but with this phone, he seems to have found a mix of being connected and not being too connected. We will see how it goes.